February is like that one piece of clothing you have that on the hanger looks great and you can’t wait to wear it, but when you do put it on, it pulls funny in the armpit or is a little too short in the leg and makes you fidget all day, or the color doesn’t actually match anything else you have, or there’s a stain in a most embarrassing location that you forgot about and didn’t notice until you left the house. So you sigh wistfully as you put it back in your closet and hope that next year maybe it’ll magically be perfect. It never will be though and should be cut up and made into something crafty like a bow tie for your snowman or a remote control cozy instead. Apologies to all my friends and family born in February, but I can’t stand this month. It’s short, which should be a plus, but it feels longer than all of summer put together. I say we break it up and distribute those days to the months that need it. Like May, August, September and December. Who’s with me?!
Like clockwork, around the middle of February, my self-diagnosed seasonal affective disorder reaches it apex and everything catches up with me until I consider making sacrifices to whatever higher being will turn me into a real bear and let me hibernate. Where are those Disney Animators when you need them?! So between the distinct lack of division of labor in my house, the constant cold weather and still early dark, on top of a couple of freelance projects running simultaneously, I pretty much retreated to my room avoiding everything that could be avoided without tragic consequences and mentally scrambled to figure out where my priorities ran off to. For those of you who know me personally, you’ll understand what place I was in when you see my work area for the week.
I’m not a messy person at all. I’m pretty much the opposite bordering on OCD. Ask my kids. I don’t function well in messes and it makes me itch to have piles and stuff in the way. I know plenty of people who are pretty happy and do well in their jobs surrounded by chaos. I’m not one of them… although as a kid I loved a good mess and was quite content to wallow in my room where no one could see my floor (which given it was green and white linoleum with a maroonish carpet remnant over part of it, no one was missing out either). Not any more though. I might be related to the Anal Retentive Chef, in fact. So that picture up there of my “desk” is a clear indicator of just how scattered and out of balance I was the last week. The rest of the house (minus the kid’s rooms which mimic flea markets on crack) wasn’t that bad, thankfully—it was neat enough, but covered with a fine layer of dust, dog hair, Monkey’s favorite “crabby patty” cracker crumbs, and ice melt from the front walk. Normally, since Monkey is allergic to the universe, I clean the house top to bottom every week to keep him comfortable and me sane, but even that fell apart. The universe became an icky place.
Some light snow covered up the outside ick for a day or two, and given how unusually little snow we’ve had this season, the first thing I did was crawl out of my head and put some snowshoes on Monkey and me and escaped for a little while before he had to leave for the afternoon. Monkey required we go visit the two closest pine trees in the field behind us to give them a hug. I guess they looked cold and lonely.
Then we wandered out a little farther toward the wood line where Monkey picked out a different tree for cutting down (lest you think he is an actual tree hugger).
He, at least, has some balance to him. He made snow angels and I made a little snowman and then it was time to head back into the House of Yuck.
Being out in the clean, pristine, blank paper-like snow gave my brain the kick-start it needed to move out of my mental rut.
When things get off-kilter for me like that, I tend to mentally stand still like the proverbial deer in the headlights trying to figure out what to do next. But instead of fright or flight, I eventually experience purge or rearrange. Takes me a couple of days to get there, but inevitably a mock spring cleaning is what breaks me out of this. Normally K is around to humor me and help me lift heavy objects, but, this time, I not only don’t have the manual labor at my disposal, but I’m debating how much I should do. It’s still early in the deployment and I get this way pretty regularly. I had told K that I wouldn’t do too much changing of things around the house (even though he and I are both notorious for moving the furniture around quarterly) because I always felt sort of bad for the soldiers who would come home with a certain picture in their minds of home and walk into something significantly different. I can warn him and send pictures, but it’s different than being part of the process. So, what and how much to do and where to start?
R’s room is safest because K doesn’t go in there much anyway, so it won’t be so shocking to redo, and is probably most in need of change because her furniture is really for younger kids and not helping her keep things mostly in order (as required by her evil mother overlord). I know she’s young and her genes are fulfilling their sloppy kid destiny, but I don’t see how giving her the right tools to self-organize can be a bad thing. She needs a new desk, a bookcase, mirror, and either under bed or some other storage. I’ve already hit a couple of thrift stores in the area with no success, but will have to go back again and visit a couple more as well as a local antique store I’ve been wanting to poke around in. I want to keep the cost down of course, but I’d like her to have some interesting pieces that reflect what an interesting kid she is. She has some wacky taste far afield from my own, but I figure if we start with conservative pieces and the potential for embellishments, that should work for both of us.
Of course, it is almost impossible to change one room without starting a chain reaction or three. I could simply and cheaply repurpose furniture we already have throughout the house into hers and the furniture she’s not using can go elsewhere. I can start with my desk that is currently in our living room and give her that. I’m not using it much these days and it’s a good size that can hold storage drawers under it. Plus, I can repaint it whatever crazy-ass colors she wants. Moving that desk would leave a gaping hole at one end of our living room though. Unfortunately, that particular part of the room is sort of odd. It’s like the one kid who is always at the party but not really participating but watching what everyone else is doing. We’ve tried to give it various uses–reading area, work/arts area, books only area–nothing really seems to mesh with the rest of the room. I just can’t come up with the right combination. Our living room is huge but the bulk of the furniture centers around the fireplace. This extra area is kind of dead space with a couple of bookcases, my desk, and two doorways that break it up effectively into a corner, but where it is part of the living area, I want it to fit in better. I just don’t know what to do with it. I do know that I can’t work well there because it’s too close to the kitchen and I tend to snack when I get stuck or bored.
If I give R my desk, that means I have to move my work and art supplies somewhere—more than likely that means the Harry Potter-sized closet under the stairs where we keep the cleaning things and miscellaneous Other Stuff (like the Nerf machine guns). I’ve thought about converting that walk-in closet into an office, actually, but I’m not there quite yet (I mean, if a small, fictional boy can sleep in a closet, I can certainly work in one). Either way, if I ditch my living room work space, I’m going to have to reorganize the closet to fit all my office paraphernalia which means more shuffling and/or money spending. Where I prefer to work is in my bedroom. There’s a little alcove in it that you can’t see when you walk into the room and it’s the perfect place to hide out and not be in the middle of crazy kids. My room is sunny, warm, has a beautiful view of the back yard, and is down a hall from the other rooms upstairs. It’s my favorite place in the house. Problem is that it is small (smallest bedroom in the house). It’s got a queen bed, long bureau, two night stands, two dog beds (which I refuse to relocate, so don’t even bother suggesting that as an option), an arm chair and a small two-shelf book case. No room at the inn for a desk or anything else. At this point, I’ve gone from having a home office to actively looking into downsizing to a lap desk. It beats the card table and cookie cooling rack I’ve been using recently. Ah…so many decisions, so much online purchasing research!
What would be ideal is if K were here to either talk me down and point out that what I really need to be doing is working and not mentally playing move the space with our furnishings, or grab an end of the desk and help me move some shit around. Either would be fine. No one else is vested in my decorative maneuverings and I cannot trust the opinion of a 9-year-old girl with visions of shiny new(ish) items to call her own(ish). Today, though, life is not ideal, and like other women in my situation, the decision is ultimately mine to make and execute and hope that my changes will work for K too when he comes home. I could use less February, some more snow for my snow shoes, a babysitter, and a notebook, but I’ll take a good night’s sleep, a shower, some completed freelance work, and an afternoon field trip to see movie props from my favorite former closet-dweller and wizard extraordinaire, Harry Potter. Some distance and a little magic should ultimately do the trick.